Nigeria sect attacks another school amid warning

AP News
Posted: Mar 07, 2012 11:50 AM
Nigeria sect attacks another school amid warning

A radical Islamist sect blamed for more than 300 killings this year alone in Nigeria has found a new target for its anti-government rage: schools.

The sect known as Boko Haram has set ablaze more than a dozen schools since the beginning of the year, saying it will continue to target them as it says the government attacks Islamic schools.

Human Rights Watch warns the Boko Haram attacks have left thousands of students unable to attend classes in northeast Nigeria.

"Boko Haram's attacks on schools represent a new and reprehensible development since the group began its campaign of violence in 2009," Zama Coursen-Neff, the group's deputy children's rights director, said in a statement issued late Tuesday. "Children and educational institutions should be left alone."

Another school in Gombe state, near the sect's spiritual home in Maiduguri, was set ablaze overnight. Residents said the school burned in a town near the border with Yobe state. It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured in the attack and authorities could not be immediately reached for comment.

Boko Haram's name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language. In its early days, then-leader Mohammed Yusuf railed against the corruption brought by Western ideals into Nigeria, including sciences.

The sect, thought to be destroyed after a 2009 riot and security crackdown killed 700 in Maiduguri, has grown more violent, but many in the region still call it Boko Haram as Yusuf continually said the phrase while preaching.

Boko Haram has put up an increasingly bloody sectarian fight against weak Nigeria's central government over unavenged Muslim killings in the country, the desire to see Islamic law enacted and to free its detained members.

The sect is blamed for killing more than 300 people this year alone. In January, it launched a coordinated attack on the northern city of Kano that killed at least 185 people. It also claimed responsibility for the August suicide car bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital that killed at least 25 people and wounded more than 100 others.

Attacks blamed on the sect continued across the north Tuesday and Wednesday. In Yobe state, police commissioner Tanko Lawan said a village chief and a civilian were killed in one attack in Bilala. In Konduga in Borno state, police said the sect destroyed a police station and a church, as well as local government offices. It was not immediately clear if there were casualties in the Konduga attack.

A military spokesman said more soldiers would be deployed to Konduga, but some living there had already begun to flee.

"We could not sleep in our houses yesterday night after the gunmen came attacking," resident Mallam Yahaya said. "My house is near the police station and we saw many policemen injured. ... One of my cousins was shot by (a) stray bullet. We are in real dilemma here."


Haruna Umar reported from Maiduguri, Nigeria.